Scandal in the Scottsdale City Attorney’s Office

Shawn Fuller

Any city attorney office is typically a boring one, insofar as the public goes. The crimes that they prosecute are relatively inconsequential by nature, it is rarely a politically polarized position, and it generally flies under the radar. Except when it doesn’t. And the Scottsdale City Attorney’s office is learning that in a big way with one of the most scandalous developments in recent local municipal history.

Shawn Fuller, a former prosecutor for the city was fired reportedly as a result of a city-commissioned report which showed that he discriminated against women in the office. But in a major plot twist, a jury found that he wasn’t fired for inappropriate behavior; instead, he was fired for being a whistleblower and bringing forward evidence that the city ignored evidence that would have exonerated defendants in court cases.

And the price for having his reputation wrongly besmirched and his career detailed because of retaliation for doing the right thing? $5.2 million, with the bill made payable to the taxpayer.

Noteworthy is that Fuller was told on his very first day of a widely known rumor that evidence for DUI cases was not provided appropriately. This came to light as a result of one former prosecutor, Caron Close, refusing to meet with a defendant in the light of additional presumably exonerating evidence. Close has since been let go after allegations of a hostile work environment came to light. Was this just the result of one bad apple who is now gone from the office? It’s difficult to tell, but if rumors are widespread about a particular action, it’s difficult to believe that it would be solely from one person.

So how can this be prevented in the future? It seems evident that there is a culture issue within the City Attorney’s office. When the desire to get successful prosecutions exceeds the desire to have correct outcomes, the office has lost the plot. Moreover, when anyone who decides that correct outcomes should be the aim of the office and that is grounds for retaliation, it is evident that the pursuit of power has embedded itself in the office.

Sherry Scott is the current Scottsdale City Attorney, and has been in the office for the last 23 years, having been elevated to the position in 2022 after serving as the Deputy City Attorney. Usually experience is an asset, but in this case Scott has at least somewhat overseen these problems. The top of any department sets the tone for the office, and the tone doesn’t seem to be an ideal one at the moment. Perhaps it’s time for Scott to make an assessment of the department and ensure that the department culture wasn’t brought down by one bad apple.